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3 Ways Tenants Lie on Rental Applications

References and renter applications can be useful tools to determine how an applicant’s character and history of responsible living.


A good reference from a boss or former landlord can be a great way to assess how likely a prospective tenant is to adhere to rules and pay rent on time. However, fake references are nothing new, and it should come as no surprise that potential tenants are willing to lie on rental applications.


Thankfully, savvy landlords and property managers can subvert and detect a sneaky applicant by being vigilant regarding areas where tenants might stretch the truth.



Posed References

Tenants asking friend pose as a boss or former landlord is not unheard of in instances where their real references may not paint such a pretty picture. You may be prepared to deal with a friend or relative and may have developed tricks to suss out an illegitimate and unpracticed pretender.


However, you may not realize that fake references have become a lucrative business and become more difficult to recognize. Companies like and individual providers like this one make a profit off of lying and are difficult to detect due to the lengths that they are willing to go to appear legitimate. Career Excuse, for instance, will not only provide a phone reference but will create an entire website and google map information for a phony business--provided the applicant is willing to pay for those high-dollar services.


Realistically, your applicants are unlikely to go to such lengths to prove a posed reference legitimate, this means there are some typical tell-tale signs for which to look. For property management references, you can usually tell if a reference is fake by looking up whether the given name on the application matches the property ownership or business registration.


Ultimately, you should base your final decision on the background report, specifically looking at credit, eviction, and criminal history since these can prove to be a more reliable source and are unbiased metrics. Even if an applicant does lie on their application, by upholding your written tenant screening requirements, your final rental decision is nondiscriminatory. 



Fake Paystubs

Seasoned landlords and property managers know not to rent to an applicant who does not meet their income requirements. Renting to a tenant who does not have verifiable income that is at least 3X the monthly rent will likely result in financial trouble for your new tenant--and thus yourself down the road.


Unfortunately, for landlords, fabricating documents like paystubs have become much easier. With online paystub generators like and, your applicants can acquire their fake proof of income for a small fee. However, unlike a fake reference, fraudulent income claims are more than just a “white lie.” Some applicants don’t realize that using these paystub generators for verification purposes is illegal, thus contractors, business owners, students, and entrepreneurs might use these paystub companies to show income information that they’d otherwise have difficulty proving.


To prevent yourself from falling for a fraudulent paystub, cross reference any information listed on the application with the details on their credit report (specifically in the employment section). When calling the applicant’s employment references, see if they’ll verbally verify the applicant’s title and income.


Furthermore, to avoid alienating potential applicants who may not have access to traditional paystubs, consider accepting other forms of income verification like bank statements, student grants, and VA benefits, or tax returns.


Identity Theft or Outright Fraud

A 2018 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, revealed that the number of identity fraud victims increased by eight percent (rising to 16.7 million U.S. consumers) in the last year, a record high since 2003 when they began tracking identify fraud.


You likely aren’t expecting an applicant to use someone else’s identity on an application, but it can happen. Look over any rental application and screening report, check for inconsistencies. Generally, there should be multiple things that don’t match up. Multiple red flags may not guarantee fraud, but it does mean there’s a good chance your applicant is lying in one way or another.


Final Thoughts

It’s important to know that most applicants providing false references are not necessarily criminals out to cause harm or risk to your property. In general, they are simply worried about a poor work or rental history. However, an applicant that cannot be truthful when seeking to enter into a rental agreement, is not one that you will be likely to trust during the tenancy. Falsifying information on a rental application should be grounds for denial. If you find out that your tenant lied to you after the lease has been signed, it can be grounds for an eviction.


Ultimately, by consistently screening your applicants with a trusted screening provider, you dodge potential risk and catch applicants as they lie.

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